Press Release: IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato's Statement at the Conclusion of his Visit to Nigeria, August 2-3, 2004

August 3, 2004

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo de Rato, made the following statement today in Abuja:

"I am happy to be in Nigeria, the first stop on my visit to Africa in my role as the new Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). I have placed Africa very high on my list of priorities and look forward to and recognize the critical role Nigeria assumes as political and economic leader and of its potential role model for other countries in Africa. This visit has provided me a valuable opportunity to gain a closer understanding of the Nigerian economy. It was my privilege to meet with President Obasanjo, his economic team, other senior government officials, and members of the National Assembly and state governors. I also met with representatives of the business community and labor unions, an AIDS/HIV clinic, as well as with the Nobel laureate Professor Soyinka.

"I am very impressed by the government's strong commitment to its far reaching economic and social reform program—the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). I welcome the implementation of a prudent set of macroeconomic policies in 2004 aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability and further enhancing Nigeria's growth prospects. In this context, efforts currently underway to enhance transparency and accountability of the public institutions in Nigeria are particularly welcome. These efforts include participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the G8 Transparency Initiative, and the African Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. I look forward to these efforts bearing fruit which will also allow the government to allocate scarce public resources toward poverty reduction. The Fund supports the overall thrust and direction of current policies, and believes that with sustained implementation of NEEDS, along with that of the states' parallel strategies (SEEDS), Nigeria will be in a better position to realize its considerable growth potential.

"In my discussions with the authorities, we agreed that the challenges of achieving higher growth and poverty reduction remained formidable. Nigeria needed to persevere with the stabilization effort, and reinforce its structural reform agenda with regard to privatization, financial sector restructuring, and public sector reforms. We further agreed on the importance of the timely finalization and passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill as this would provide the legal foundation for fiscal prudence and transparency at all levels of government in Nigeria.

"I commended the government for its commitment to improve transparency as evidenced by Nigeria's participation in the EITI, NEPAD's peer review mechanism, and the G8 transparency initiative. The strengthening of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) were important steps to fight corruption, and I hope that tangible results of these measures will become visible soon.

"My visit underscores the strong importance the IMF places on its relations with Nigeria, and on continuing dialogue with the Nigerian public. We welcome the government's request to monitor the implementation of Nigeria's program. The IMF Executive Board has endorsed an intensified surveillance framework, with quarterly staff visits and semi-annual information reports to the Board. The IMF stands ready to assist Nigeria in every way we can within our mandate and will continue to provide support through regular policy discussions with the government and the provision of technical assistance in the area of budgetary reforms and monetary management."


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